The level of news coverage that the NFL was able to garner over the past few weeks has not been anything new for the league that is the most popular in the nation.  Between the Broncos signing Peyton Manning and trading Tim Tebow to the Jets and the firestorm surrounding the Saints’ Bountygate, they certainly have kept the NFL top of mind in the short downtime between the end of the season and the draft. The really astounding thing about it all? This all took place during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  A sports radio listener might even believe that interest in the tournament had faded.

But fear not, college basketball fans (and advertisers), this year’s tournament not only enjoyed a reported most-watched First Thursday since 1991, but also continued in that vein through championship weekend with higher household numbers than last year, with the Kentucky-Louisville matchup drawing 8.4% of U.S. TV households and Kansas-Ohio State at 9.6%.

As the media industry is left to analyze television ratings and household metrics for this year’s March Madness, we consider one of the great things about advertising during sporting events – the high percentage of sports that are consumed live.  The SportBusiness Journal recently delved into this fact in an article that largely focuses on the age demographics watching various sports championships, but  it touches how people actually watch television during sports championships. Live. No DVR. No fast forwarding through ads. Sports media and rights are expensive, sure.  But the value of scheduling a spot or investing in a partnership becomes much more appealing with record numbers of viewers, like the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, actually watching TV in real time.

Not only are people consuming the game live, but social is now playing a major role. Many organizations and brands chose to add a social component to their advertising during the tournament from simply including their Facebook page’s address to Coke Zero sponsoring the “Social Arena”, advertisers found countless ways to leverage the popularity of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  Looks like CBS and Turner might get back that $10.8 Billion after all.  Did you notice any well executed social and traditional advertising during the tournament?